Patron saint of flowers’ relics to exhibit in England’s York Minster

Published September 22, 2009

The relics of St Therese of Lisieux, whom Roman Catholics revere as the patron saint of flowers, are to be exhibited for veneration at an Anglican venue  in the north of England at York Minster cathedral.The dean of York, Rev. Keith James, said, “(St Therese) is a gift of God to us all, and this is a chance for Christians of different traditions to pray for unity, and renew our faith and love.” The saint’s relics will arrive at York Minster on Oct. 1 according to a statement published by the cathedral. They will be displayed for pilgrims and others to visit until the following day at noon, and the minster will remain open all night.The relics have arrived in Britain. A specially adapted hearse accompanied by priests and nuns transported the remains of the Carmelite nun in a glass-covered casket from France through the Channel Tunnel for a month-long tour of England and Wales. The visit of Therese’s remains began on Sept. 16 with a service at Portsmouth Catholic Cathedral on England’s south coast.Hundreds of people lined up around the cathedral to await the arrival of the relics. Some people brought items including roses, figurines and toys that they pressed against the glass canopy of the casket, which contains the saint’s thigh and foot bones.Canon John Udris, one of the tour organizers, said Therese had mentioned before she died that she wanted to tour the earth proclaiming the Gospel. He added that in a sense this intention had been fulfilled.The relics of the saint, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 24 in 1897, have been taken to more than 40 countries over the past 20 years. In Ireland, it is said that more than half the population came to see the relics, with many showering them with roses.Therese was the daughter of a watchmaker, and she pleaded with Pope Leo XIII for admittance to the Carmelite order when underage. She predicted that at her death a shower of roses would rain down. She was canonized in 1924 after miracles had been attributed to her, and in 1997 was declared a Doctor of the Church, which York Minister describes as “a saint with understanding of the Gospel helpful to all Christians.”Rev. Michael McGoldrick, regional superior for the Catholic Carmelite order in England and Wales, told a BBC radio interviewer that he did not expect the English turnout to match the Irish experience. Yet the inclusion of a non-Catholic venue for the first time showed that the mood had moved on from 10 years ago when Cardinal Basil Hume, then head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, had declined to endorse a similar tour.”I think he thought it would be insensitive to other faiths but a lot has changed since then,” Mr. McGoldrick said. “(Therese’s) concept of a loving God, and responding in love to God will find echoes in other denominations. Relics are ways of getting in touch with a person.”Little was known about Therese at the time of her death, explained McGoldrick, and it washer posthumously published autobiography, “Story of a Soul”, that brought about a wider understanding of her life.Soldiers in the First World War are said to have carried a copy of the saint’s autobiography in their kitbags.Some British media reaction to the tour has been unfavorable. Matthew Parris, a columnist on The Times newspaper in London, said the event had rekindled his atheism, and reminded him that agnosticism was not enough. He chided fellow journalists for a lack of balance in their “deadpan” reporting. The tour he said was “preposterous nonsense,” and he called upon atheists in Britain to, “come out of their closets.”


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